Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, 2010, New York, Business Plus, Tony Hsieh
Word Count: 1,432
Delivering Happiness is an autobiographical book written by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, an online shoe retailer infamous for its company culture and excellence in customer service. Strengths of the book include Hsieh’s story-based approach and use of specific examples that detail his personal entrepreneurial journey, beginning with his first business venture in worm farming as a child. The personal vignettes he shares allow the reader to understand the experiences and thought-processes that shaped Hsieh into the leader he is today. An inevitable downside of the ...view middle of the document...
Throughout the story, several strengths in Hsieh’s leadership become evident: intelligence, introspection, vision, and commitment. Hsieh was admitted into all the prestigious colleges to which he applied and without studying he was able to excel. Although he describes his accomplishments in a humble manner, it is obvious that Hsieh is aware of his intelligence and the advantage this brings. Yet, Hsieh’s success can be attributed to much more than this. He knows how to connect the dots. He is able to translate lessons from one discipline and apply those lessons elsewhere. For instance, he applied his lessons from playing poker into Venture Capital – playing for long-run success, not playing to win each individual hand.
A key reason for Hsieh’s success at Zappos was that he was introspective and honest with himself early in his career. When he sold his first company, LinkExchange, to Microsoft he wrote, “After facing success, selling a company for 265 million dollars, the question is… Now what? What is next? What is success? What is happiness? What am I working toward?” Hsieh realized that no sum of money could buy him happiness. Before committing himself to Zappos, Hsieh spent many hours thinking about the things in life that he valued most. He even went so far as to make an all-encompassing list of the things that made him happy, such as building things, being creative and inventive, and connecting with friends. It was through this process of self-reflection that Hsieh developed a clear vision for the career he wanted and the type of organization he wanted to lead. Zappos’ distinctive culture is a manifestation of that vision.
Several weaknesses in Hsieh’s leadership are also apparent. He can be impulsive, coercive, and biased by his past successes. On many occasions Hsieh made decisions without carefully analyzing their implications. He quit his job at Oracle without a clear idea about what he wanted to do next. This same impulsive behavior without thorough research occurred when he started a magic business and when he hired a logistics company at Zappos. Another weakness is found in Hsieh’s approach to group culture; he does not encourage cohesiveness, he demands it. When he moved his company to Nevada, he expected all his employees to move with him. Although he praises the culture of Zappos, he has a tendency to turn away people with different viewpoints. Hsieh also frequently displays experiential bias – assuming outcomes of current events will mimic those of past events. As an example, he assumes it would be easy to obtain venture capital for Zappos because LinkExchange received capital and made a healthy return – in fact, Zappos was repeatedly denied VC funding.
Hsieh does take steps to improve upon some of his weaknesses. One of Hsieh’s self-acknowledged weaknesses is his public speaking ability. He dreads making public speeches and suffers many sleepless nights as a result. He comes to realize, however, that like most things in...